Sunday, August 14, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

The theme weeks are over for now as this week's roundup returns to the standard format of giving you reviews of a random list of albums that I've been grooving to recently. I spent much of this week contemplating my next manuscript. Typically in that stage, I tend to steer myself to more familiar sounds that I know will fit the mood that I'm trying to establish. So a good deal of items on this list are either albums I revisited after a long time of silence, or are simply new albums but sounds that are familiar to me. As a result, this week has ended up with a strange list of albums, but all of which are well worth sharing either for their greatness or as a curiosity--after all, I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to music, enjoying the connectedness and story sometimes as much as the music itself. Enjoy.

Madrugada - The Nightly Disease [Deluxe Edition]: A few months ago, I did a Weekend Roundup focusing on this incredible Norwegian band (here). While in Switzerland, I picked up this just released deluxe edition of the 2001 album. One of my favorite albums of the last decade, I was thrilled to get my hands on the 180 gram, 4 record vinyl edition. The original album is amazingly gloomy rock and the album of bonus material includes some demo versions of the songs along with a slew of unreleased tracks that are equally as good as the album. A special treat is the cover of Neil Young's "Thrasher". If you don't have this album, you should. And when you're searching for it, do yourself a favor and pick up the deluxe edition, it's worth it.

Supergrass - Strange Ones: A Collection of Rare Odditites: This bootleg belonged to the Missus before we met and has been in our merged music collection for over a decade without my ever having listened to it. The reason for that is partially because I've never been a huge fan of the Oxford trio's 1995 debut album and this collection is basically just live versions of those songs. However, it bothers me that I have albums that I have never listened to, and since I was feeling a bit upbeat this week, I decided to put it on. I found the live versions to be much more playful than the album versions and really liked it. They're are some fantastic songs on that album, "Alright", "Time" and of course "Caught by the Fuzz." It made me want to revisit the album I'd written off years and years ago.

Joey Doyles - Get Money Give Love: For too long, hip hop has been ruled by party anthems and dance beats. My hip hop roots were born in East Coast, NYC hardcore of the early to mid-90's, a style that has been under-represented in recent years, or only represented by old timers from back in the days. This album hopefully changes that. Taking inspiration from that style, but in no way derivitative, this album is the real deal. And unlike a lot of hip hop artists, Joey Doyles has several different flows that keep the record interesting. The beats are tight, the rhymes are dope...check it out if you're looking for some real hip hop.

Nirvana - Out of the Womb: This week, I started reading the In Utero book in the 33 1/3 series of books documenting the recording process of an album. This has always been the band's artistic masterpiece in my opinion and one of my favorite records of all time. The book discusses the initial studio recording and its subsequent rejection by the label. That's when I remembered this bootleg that I purchased back in 1994, which is that original mix of the full album plus the other songs recorded at the session that would eventually be used as B-Sides or on other compilations. This version is more raw and aggressive and the levels aren't as smooth. In a way it sounds like a live album. I love this version of the album, though I admit to liking the final version better. It's interesting to hear how a raw album is affected by production.

Newermind - Tribute Album: My interest in this recently released covers album came about due to my listening of the above album. Gathering a slew of known and unknown artists, SPIN magazine created this uneven version of Nevermind. The songs that work best are the ones that reinterpret the original songs. There are a handful of straight forward covers which don't really appeal to me, not seeing the point. But a few songs really blew me away. "Lounge Act" is redone as a beautiful folk song by Jessica Lea Mayfield. "Polly" is made even more haunting by Amanda Palmer (of Dresden Dolls and Evelyn Evelyn). The Meat Puppets and The Vaselines (two bands covered by Nirvana) do a nice job with their songs as well. As a side note, the cover of "Come As You Are" might be the worst cover I've ever head.

Jessica Lea Mayfield - With Blasphemy So Heartfelt: I picked this up after hearing her cover on the above album and was very impressed with this 2008 debut. It's a singer songwriter album of beautiful folk songs. She has an amazing voice, the kind that you can listen to all day long. I listen to a lot albums like this and for one to stand out the way this does is an exception worth paying attention to. She has another album which came out this past February which I hope to get soon.

A Fanfare for Neutral Milk Hotel Volume II and Volume III: I discovered the existence of these tribute albums while working on the Elephant 6 edition of the Roundup two weeks ago. Produced by a fan forum, there are five volumes in this series where various fans submitted covers of NMH songs and the best were chosen for the compilations and distributed for free (these volumes are the most readily available). Though a good deal of these are simply people sitting in their bedrooms doing their best Jeff Mangum impressions, there are certainly some amazing covers on here. A live version of "Engine" with Jordaan Mason (who went on to record one of my favorite albums of 2009) is pretty cool. Other songs worthy of note: "My Dream Girl Don't Exist" by Bootleg Kazoo, "Wood Guitar" by Glow Worm, and "King of Carrot Flowers" recorded live by The Jesus Vibes. Certainly interesting for NMH fans.

Jeff Mangum - Live at Jittery Joe's: This live solo album by Neutral Milk Hotel front man was recorded in 1997 but remained unreleased until 2001. This show was played around the time In Aeroplane Over the Sea was recorded and features many of the songs on there as well as some tracks from the first album and a few unreleased tracks. The atmosphere is amazing on this album. There's a baby that babbles and cries between songs, which in my opinion adds to the mood and the dreamlike quality of Jeff's songwriting. There's some bootleg NMH shows that are probably better, but this one is right up there with the best of them.

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